Returning to work after retirement delays cognitive decline – study


Retirement is often eagerly anticipated, as it brings the promise of newfound freedom and leisure time. However, we should not overlook the positive impact that work can have on our cognitive abilities. In today’s dynamic world, many people switch careers multiple times throughout their lives, and a growing number of retirees are choosing to return to work.

Research has shown that working, especially in mentally challenging roles that require critical thinking and creativity, can help reduce cognitive decline and promote healthy aging. Delaying or preventing cognitive decline is crucial, as it directly impacts quality of life and places a financial burden on both healthcare systems and society as a whole. By studying the older population, we can gain valuable insights into how participation in the labor market affects cognitive function.

A recent study conducted in Luxembourg aimed to investigate the effects of work in general, as well as returning to work after retirement, on cognitive decline in adults. 

Researchers analyzed two databases from the United States and South Korea, comparing subjects from both countries with distinct cultural differences. 

The South Korean database included information on over 10,000 individuals aged 45 and above, spanning from 2006 to 2020. The American database consisted of data from more than 43,000 subjects aged 51 and above, covering the period from 2006 to 2018. The researchers examined employment records alongside performance evaluations in cognitive tasks in order to assess cognitive abilities.

The analysis revealed that leaving the labor market had a detrimental effect on the cognitive state of the subjects in both countries. However, in South Korea, individuals who returned to work experienced an improvement in their cognitive status, while this phenomenon was not observed among the American study participants who reentered the workforce. This difference may be attributed to cultural variations between the two countries. These findings shed light on the importance of addressing cognitive decline in old age. Engaging in mentally stimulating work is shown to preserve cognitive function, emphasizing the need to challenge ourselves for as long as possible.

The situation in Israel

What about Israel? Many eagerly await the day they can retire, but the retirement age in Israel is currently 67 for men and 60-65 for women. This marks a slight increase from the original retirement age established by law in 1987, which was 65 for men and 60 for women. A significant percentage of adults in Israel continue to participate in the labor market, with approximately 19% of individuals aged 65 and above actively partaking in the workforce in 2019. 


This percentage surpasses that of European countries, where individuals in this age group constitute less than 6% of the labor force. Working at an advanced age in Israel has its benefits, but the specific extent and nature of these benefits require further investigation. In the meantime, it is essential to remember that even without returning to work, it is possible to remain active and engage in challenging activities to maintain a healthy brain and function at a high level in old age.

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